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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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HiFive Chicken 24hrs

I have passed by this 24 hour fast food, chicken restaurant several times before, and have never thought to go in. That was until it became my responsibility to do so, as one of Vancouver Foodster’s judges for his chicken wing challenge.

“Hi Five” has a couple of locations, but this one on Marine Drive is their busiest. During our visit there was a steady stream of delivery people coming and going, and a handful of individuals coming in and taking out. Despite the moving traffic, there is plenty of tables and counter space for dinung in. Although with its fluorescent lights, quick turn over, and tables that don’t get bussed in between; this isn’t the sort of place you make yourself comfortable at.

I was here to try their classic fried chicken, but made a point to sample their baked version as well; especially considering they made mention of it on their awning.

We had a drum and a thigh in both their classic and spicy breading. Between our two servings the sizes of each piece was inconsistent, one of which was half the size of my face. And as exciting as that was, it made the other pieces look small by comparison.

We were told the chicken came to us fresh from the fryer, despite our clear view of the tray of stacked parts, under a heat lamp. Although our chicken’s crispiness did speak to it. Extra crunchy with its thick breading, it gave you an audible confirmation, when you sunk your teeth in. No doubt it had a fresh fry, but the stagnant oil used gave things an acrid tinge. Luckily it came seasoned with more than just salt and pepper, and the additional spices helped to mask the above. As for the spicy version, it didn’t look any different. You were only able to tell it from the regular thanks to its slow to grow, creeping heat.

We also liked their baked chicken just as much. This was comfort eating, juicy chicken with a nice char and some good fat. All that was missing was a starchy base it enjoy it with, like some seasoned Mexican-style rice.

Instead, they have their own homemade slaw as a side. Creamy and tangy, it offered a nice break from the grease of the deep fry. My guest liked it so much that he had two servings of it.

The potato wedges were pretty standard. I wanted a crispier fry and a more firm centre. Altogether, a texture that better paralleled the slaw and the chicken.

Similarly, the gravy wasn’t memorable. We both thought it tasted like a packet mix, despite the manager stating that everything is house made from scratch.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
My guest liked both versions of their a lot, claiming that “Hi Five” was like “Churches Chicken”, but better. I wasn’t as enamoured, but do consider it a great option for after drinking eats. Who doesn’t like fried chicken in all its forms? Don’t deny your cravings.

HI FIVE
203 SE Marine Drive, Vancouver BC
604-327-4898
hifive24.com

J&G Fried Chicken

My original visit to this fried chicken joint came with my responsibilities as one of the judges for “Vancouver Foodster’s” chicken wing challenge. I was tasting my way through the competitors, and this was one of them. I may have originally came for just their chicken wings, but found myself staying for their fizzy fruit drinks, yam fries, fried dessert, and popcorn chicken.

With two available locations, I visited their stand alone shop downtown. It, as opposed to their food court presence within Crystal Mall, in Burnaby. Located at the tail end of Robson Street, they are easy to spot with their well lit sign. Past it is their all glass facade, with a oversized chicken statue by the door. Walking in, there is an invitation in neon to try their “Fun 2 Eat”, Taiwanese style fried chicken.

The restaurant has a small square foot presence with kitchen and counter up front, and a handful of smaller tables that run down the length of the shoppe. We would order at said counter and then grab a couple of high top stools by the window, looking out on to the sidewalk.

The menu is a single page back and forth. Well used with scuff marks and 1/4 of the menu options blocked off by paper. More tempting to order from is the television screen broadcasting informative slides and high resolution photos.

We would start with their chicken wing entry and work our way through their regular offerings. The former was a combo that came with three pieces of chicken: 2 drums and 1 thigh, served with hand cut yam fries and deep fried mini buns.

The chicken was fired to order, with the grease stains to prove it. Piping hot and incredibly juicy, be warned, you want to allow your meal to cool before biting down. This was fresh chicken marinated in five spice, sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce. The chicken’s thin and crispy coating was the product of their special formulated wet batter dip. For added flavour you can get the chicken spicy in varying degrees. Overall, it had a very unique essence, and one I haven’t had until here and now. Deep with a layered umami flavour, and a tad on the salty side. To help change the taste I would have liked a dipping sauce, maybe a sweet and sour or a zesty mustard?

I highly recommend ordering it and any of their chicken with a couple of their refreshing drinks, to cleanse your palette in between bites. I was immediately drawn to the colour and whimsy of their gradient ones. The purple to orange blend was flavoured in peach, and the white to black: a strawberry with hints of pink. I suggest stirring the drink up before taking a sip. This helps to dilute the sweeten syrup at the bottom of the cup. Each fruit flavour was beautifully effervescent with tiny bubbles that popped on the tip of your tongue.

“J&G’s” take on yam fries was a sweet one. With a sugar and sour plum coating it ate like a hearty, starchy dessert. You didn’t quite know what to make of it, so found yourself going back for more. Soft yet firm, and completely interesting.

The fried buns was a nice, neutral sweetness to end on. Best hot and crispy with a generous smattering of condensed milk. I just wish there was a lot more of it, as it was what gave the dessert its flavour and flair.

We also had to try their popcorn chicken. It is one of their staples and their best selling item. I found it much more palatable that the chicken above. Soften white breast meat that pulls a part. It too had a 5 spice, herbal blend seasoning, but more mild. They were similar in taste to the chicken bites that you get at bubble tea cafés, making them a great anytime snack. I just wish they were served in smaller chunks. As is, these required multiple bites to finish, and were clumsy to eat with using the skewer they provided.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was delicious, but indulgent, not something you could have two days in a row, but a flavour you would find yourself craving. We definitely walked away feeling full with our meal sitting heavy. Don’t deny your cravings.

J&G Fried Chicken
1706 Robson St, Vancouver BC
604-423-2870
jgfcwest.ca

Hakkaku Ramen, revisit

It has been many years since my last visit to this long standing ramen shoppe, in Burnaby. It was over 5 years ago, and with so many other options in the area and in general, I guess I never found a reason to return. However, today the weather was weary and my friend and I were wanting something comforting to warm up with. She is particular in her restaurant choices, but boldly declared that this as her go-to for ramen in our neighbourhood.

A single, traditional Japanese lantern hangs outside, marking the way. Inside, the restaurant is configured slightly differently than from what I remembered. Smaller tables with plenty of space in between one another. Outside of the giant oriental fan on the wall and the few pieces of art hanging from the bar, there wasn’t much to the decor. It was similar to their menu, straightforward and to the point.

The menu was written in English and kanji, kept safe behind plastic sheet protectors. Offered on it were the main ramen staples of shio, shoyu, and and miso; as well as five specialty broths all their own. And with each you have a choice between a regular or rich version of the broth, and the topping of pork chasu in either shoulder or belly cut.

My guest got her usual “shio ramen” and liked it just fine with the regular broth. The bowl typically comes with chashu, bean sprouts, lettuce, fish cake, green onion, and seaweed. But my she had her’s with only the soft boiled egg and chashu in shoulder meat. The meat was lean and cut thick, but not tough. And even with the regular broth it was still fairly rich and flavourful.

She also added on the “shrimp cake” under additional toppings. It was a different option, not offered anywhere else that I have been to. Although the two flattened patties had a taste that overpowered. And I couldn’t help but liken them to the shrimp loaf that you find in the dim sum dumpling, ha gao. It tasted okay, but I didn’t find that it paired well with the mild salt flavoured pork bone broth.

I preferred and was surprised by their “Tomato ramen”. Tomato, bean sprouts, onion, corn, fish cake, green onion, boiled egg, and chashu in my chosen cut of pork belly. The belly meat had a great fatty char to it. It was the decadence I wanted, along side the rich version of the pork broth. And the tomato flavour added kicked things up a notch. Its tangy quality somewhat reminded me of canned tomato soup. Warming and satisfying, although it did get fairly rich, and I found myself reaching for more tea than usual with this one. And luckily my cup was never half empty thanks to their caring staff.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Not my first choice for ramen, but not one I would shy away from either. Made wholesome and served by what looked like 3 generations of women. Simple delight and much charm from this local eatery. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAKKAKU RAMEN
4530 East Hastings St., Burnaby, BC V5C 2K6
604-558-3386

Another Beer Co.

Located in a warehouse area of New Westminster, just off Sapperton skytrain; over the train tracks, and past the dump is the aptly named “Another Beer Co.”. They are a little hard to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. Although standing signs pointing the way like breadcrumbs, help. The elusiveness of it all adds to the small batch charm of this microbrewery. Which, as it stands, is the only one I can name in New Westminster.

One unit in a warehouse complex, their neon sign lights the way. You needn’t be afraid to open the closed door, as the hours of operation are listed for you to review before turning the handle.

Inside, their bar greets you on the right. Behind it the lone employee tending to their operations on thus Saturday night. Here, they have their beers on taps that spell out their name. And merchandise like caps, t-shirts, and hoodies; should you want to take a keepsake home with you.

On the left are stainless steel vats, sectioned off by a stanchion. They are close enough to touch and admire, as they tower above you. I liked how they add a certain authenticity to the space.

But most eye catching is their logo “abc.” lit in neon, mounted against a blacksplash of blue and black watercolour. They cast a nightclub-like glow over the more intimate concrete space.

You help yourself to a printed menu by the cash register. It makes ordering easy with descriptive names and detailed rundowns. We caught the tail end of its run from December 31st, 2019 to January 5th, 2020. You order and pay right away with the clerk behind the bar, and then help yourself to any of their available seating. Grab a stool by the bar, individual tables offer group seating; and for more sprawling room and a bird’s eye view, head upstairs.

I wanted to try a few of their beers, given said interesting names and descriptions. However, they don’t do a flights, which are ideal for sampling. You either need to commit to a half or a full glass. But at $3.50 to $4 for the former, you are able to try a few of their brews at a fair price.

Like the “Blueberry Cobbler” which is what they called a “pastry sour”. It is 5.9% and includes lactose in it. Their winter offering is “wool socks”, a winter dubble and a collaboration with “Moody Ales”. It is described as a carbonated drink full of cozy vibes, cocoa, and dark fruit. And “Flavour Country” also peaked my interest. An imperial Tobacco at 8.5%, with a well painted out and elaborate backstory, surrounding visiting “flavour country”. I walked away feeling I missed out on this one.

Instead, I ordered the “Nique’s Northern Champagne”, a Berliner Weisse at 3%. I choose it for the name, and the hope there would be champagne in it, glossing over the weak percentage and the fact that it would have no affect on me whatsoever. The menu informs that there is no champagne in this, and that it is merely considered as the champagne of the North, in Northern Germany. Described as “refreshing, light, as it carries a wonderful tart lemonade and bready backbone”. It was a hard swallow on the first sip: sharp and tangy like a slap in the face, it catches you off guard. However, your taste buds adapt quick to its overwhelming character, and all your subsequent sips are much more enjoyable. Easy enough to gulp down with a sour tang that flares up every so often.

My partner got the “Milos” Czech Pilsner, taking the bartender’s suggestion, after asking for something lighter like a lager. The menu described this as “The original Pilsner” and a “beautiful thing”: “crisp, refreshing, with faint notes of toffee and a strong saaz hop presence.” I also found the first sip harsh, but less so than with the “champagne” above; this too gets easier. I would describe this an easy drinking beer, and a good one to ease on into your night with.

Sadly, that was all the time we had to try, we made it in just in time for last call at a little after 9:30pm. Given the area, they do close earlier than most bars.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I like the location, and how it’s off the beaten path; a hidden gem with offerings full of character. Definitely a must visit for any craft beer enthusiasts, and anyone in the area wanting to grab a pint before taking the skytrain home. Don’t deny your cravings.

ANOTHER BEER CO.
30 Capilano Way #11, New Westminster, BC V3L 5M3
(604) 515-9093
anotherbeerco.com

2020 Mazda 6 review

A regular girl’s guide to cars~

For 2020 I am introducing a new type of car review. In this series, I am not going to give you jargon, there will be no technical terms; because this isn’t a buyer’s guide. What I will be bringing to the table is an honest review from a regular, everyday driver. The outlook of a simple woman on her daily commute, gearing towards other drivers looking for a vehicle that can take them from point A to B. What does the car mean to me and how I felt driving it, every feature and detail that resonated.

And in this week’s review, I was behind the wheel of the new 2020 Mazda 6.

Approaching it for the first time I was already impressed. I like sportier sedans, something smaller and easier to transverse the city in. To be able to barrel down narrow streets, without the anxiety of crossing into neighbouring lanes. And the ability to easily park in a stall, when the car of the person next to you hasn’t done a good job of staying within the lines of their’s. (The latter happens more often than not in my experience). Simply put, this was a good looking vehicle with handsome exterior styling. The kind you are proud to pose beside or in front of, and want to be see cursing around downtown within.

Inside, the cabin gives you a similar feel, every day approachability with a glossy finish and a premium presence. The quality look and feel of the cabin is what you would expect from a more expensive vehicle, here before you, at a price much less than you would think.

Everything was laid out subtly before the driver. Together, the infotainment system and centre console didn’t feel loud. Its designer opted for the less is more approach: less dials and smaller screens with more breathing space in between each; all accented with leather finishes and metallic trim. I felt like a teenager driving in a car built for sophisticated adults. The kind of adult who would drive it to their 9-5 job on weekdays, and then dinner parties with friends on the weekends. Overall, dressier without being pretentious.

But for those looking for more bells and whistles, more gadgets to fidget with and more settings with which to customize, the Mazda 6 might not be fore you.

As for the way it drives: My job takes me all the way to Delta, and within this daily commute, I get a great assessment of any vehicle. Travelling over highways, across narrow bridges, through giant puddles, and over hidden speed bumps; the Mazda 6 took it all in stride. Therefore, I would classify it as a great daily driver. And like majority of the other Mazda vehicles I have drove before it, the handling was there. It wasn’t the quickest, but it was one of the smoother drives. The wheel glided and the brakes were springy. Given how easily I maneuvered the vehicle, and how much I enjoyed being behind its wheel, I just wish the fuel economy could have been a little better; to be able to do more of the above for less.

Overall, the Mazda 6 is a standard, easy to drive vehicle with the aesthetics of a luxury sedan. I highly recommend it for the city commuter between its comfort, optics, and average fuel economy, (comparatively). Ideal for those who want less is more, and comfort and ease above all. Like a sweatshirt you throw on last minute to head out for a quick errand, this was a comfortable and familiar ride. Be it 6am on a cold morning with heated seats, or during rush hour where traffic stands still, but you are reclined in ease, within your peaceful cabin.

Thanks for the ride and the great time Mazda Canada.

#Mazda6
https://www.mazda.ca/

Marutama Ramen Metrotown

Unpopular opinion: “I am not a fan of Marutama Ramen”.

Maybe it’s because I like being the odd man out, or maybe my taste buds are a skewed; but I am not a fan of the multi-location, ramen chain, “Marutama”. In fact they may very well be one of my last choices for ramen. But today we were in Burnaby, my guest had been craving a bowl of their chicken broth ramen, and I didn’t have the heart to say, “No”. Although, I did suggest dining at the neighbouring “Boiling Point” instead, due to their lack of a line.

However, the wait for “Marutama” wasn’t that long, and we only had to endure 5 minutes of it in the cold with all the others hungry folks. So there we stood patiently by the doorway, after having written our names down on a clipboard out front. We would stare into the all glass interior, watching lustfully as the tables turned over quite quickly.

This is the latest location of this popular chain, located is in the expanding area of Burnaby, just past Metrotown. Once home to a different ramen restaurant, the space didn’t feel all that much different now. Narrow tables meant to maximize seating, and the kitchen/bar towards the back. Well lit and warm, even despite us sitting by the door that regularly swung open, exposing us to the elements.

The menu is a one laminated sheet. It showcases their chicken broth and the variations of ingredients and noodles with it. With an egg, without, spicy, extra meat, or all of the above. At the base of it, it is all the same.

Remembering I wasn’t a fan of my first and most recent bowl, I ordered their signature bowl with creamy chicken broth, seaweed, and a whole soft boiled egg. It came with the maximum number of toppings for a more varied meal. I don’t find that the broth has enough flavour, the richness that I love in my favourite bowls of ramen was missing here. It felted watered down and it lacked interest. I would have also liked a thicker noodle, to offer a better balanced collection of textures to sort through. Something satisfying to gnaw on. With this it was small pieces of soften seaweed, a whole egg that was hard to ration out bite by bite, fatty slices of cha su, and thin wispy stands of noodles.

The table side condiments do help in curating your bowl. Between us we used 3/4 of their fried garlic slices. I was also heavy handed on the toasted sesame seeds, and torgarashi power. Yet I still couldn’t finish my serving. I found myself growing bored of the taste mid way.

Anticipating this, I ordered some gyozas to have something else to help change up the taste. They were your run-of-the-mill pork and vegetable filled dumplings. I knew exactly what I was going to get with this, and it delivered. A classic with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce.

Sorry, for those who have been offended by my opinion here. But I have had this a handful of times now, and can safely conclude that I don’t like their ramen. And in fact, I like them less after each subsequent visit. I can see why others love their chicken broth though. That there is quality and authenticity that goes into each bowl, everything is made fresh daily, without msg or imitation flavours, and its lighter nuance appeals to more individuals. The latter was the goal of its creator, based out of Japan. He wanted to create a bowl of ramen that would satisfy anyone from around the world, and given that chicken is one of those food items that majority of people like, this became his flagship product.

That being said, my guest like what she had just fine, cleaning her bowl it full satisfaction. She had the “Aosa ramen” with aosa seaweed, two pieces of cha su, and an egg she added on. She also requested it to be made spicy. Although truthfully in terms of ingredients, it was no different than mine, same seaweed and all.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Once again, I am not a fan of their chicken broth ramen, but will recommend it to those who like a lighter broth, and all the garlic chips they can stomach. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. We don’t share the same mouth after all. Don’t deny your cravings.

MARUTAMA RA-MEN
5278 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 2E9
(604) 430-3343
marutama.ca

Sitting down with the HK BBQ Master himself

“If you don’t enjoy your own food how can you expect others to”. – Anson, owner & operator of HK BBQ Master

Ever since Netflix’s “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” came out, with the first episode featuring “HK BBQ Master”, they have seen longer lines than usual and an increase in popularity. All thanks to the celebrity of Seth Rogen and acclaimed Chef David Chang, of “Momofuku” fame.

And since then I yet to revisit. So when touring around a foodie from New York, I figured, what better reason to return to the popular hole in the wall, than this?

Located in the parking lot of Superstore in Richmond, one unfamiliar with the area might not find them all that easily. Although, the line that snakes out the door is a dead giveaway. Plenty of bodies trying to cram themselves in to this confined space. This, despite the fact that they have recently renovated and are now the size of three businesses. But I can still recall the past where they were but a narrow corridor serving up their traditional Hong Kong style barbecued meats to go. This 2019 expansion now gives more customers the ability to dine in, and the opportunity for us to sit at our table and enjoy the bustling ambience today.

“HK” closes at 8pm every night, and they are continuously finding themselves selling out by 7-7:30pm. In fact, they restock their reserves daily in order to ensure freshness and quality of their product; basically only ordering what they need for the day. So you know it doesn’t get any fresher than that. They are also so popular that they have 3 chefs prepping for next day’s service, all day; and 2 chefs cooking for today’s service, the entire day.

Today we were treated to the full extent of their menu. A feast that included a sit down with the second generation “HK BBQ Master” himself. He served up sides and stories of the craftsmanship that went into his food. Time and care that sets them apart, and have resulted in the dying of this art.

His favourite dish is their slow cooked soy chicken. The secret is in the soy sauce dressing. The same vat of the stuff has been used and reused for over 20 years now. They keep adding more herbs, spices, and rock sugar to elongate the mix. The result, a delicious light and dark soy chicken that is poached for 25 minutes. Each piece dark or white meat is deliciously tender. It isn’t too salty browned with soy, but flavoured thoroughly enough to enjoy as is. Rice is available, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You want to save room for all the meat to follow.

Next is their most popular menu item: the Bbq pork; the one coloured in red, not to be confused with the one that has crispy skin. Our host described the former as the easiest way to approach their cuisine. A nice safe start to the introduction of HK style barbecue meats. This was slow cooked in a bath of wheat honey. They allow the meat to soak in it twice, resulting in pork with crispy edges and a soft and tender caramelization to it. Our host estimates that they go through about 400lbs of this meat a day, depending on the day. This too was simply amazing, one of the best renditions I have had, the extra honey soak was worth it, sweet and saucy, fatty and delicious.

The roasted pork belly is the one with the crispy skin. And with the recipe at “HK BBQ Master” it is made even crispier. Described to us like “bacon”; here, they marinated the belly meat top to bottom. Adding salt for the crackling, and cooking it at low heat. It was tasty, with little fat, though a little on the dry side for me.

My favourite of their meat products, is the roasted barbecue duck. I found the meat used here leaner than I have had at other restaurants. They also use a different type of sauce, ensuring there is plenty of a juice in the final product. The skin is roasted with a vinegar and sugar coating, where it air dries overnight, and then is cooked up to 45 minutes under one temperature. The finished product was tasty enough, but I wished we had meatier pieces over bone, and thicker cuts of breast meat to enjoy. It is served with their own home made plum sauce, a nice way to brighten up each piece, although it is just as good without it.

They also have a green onion dip and a squeeze bottle of homemade soy sauce as condiments. The green onion and ginger sauce is best with the chicken above. It too is made fresh every day. It adds a nice salty, herbal quality to the chicken. And the soy sauce is diluted from mix used in their soy marinate, but watered down and further sweetened.

If you are looking for something fresh, grab a side order of their vegetables for the table. This is typically a stewed leafy green sauced up and sautéed. I am not a fan of the texture of such vegetables so skipped out trying this.

But I highly recommend their soup. I don’t know if it is on rotation, but today we had their vegetable soup made with dry and fresh leafy greens. It is referred to as “Silver and gold soup”, given the colouring of the two types of vegetables used. I was surprised by how much I liked it. It replaced water for me during the meal. It was plenty flavourful, yet light enough to offer a break in between all the heavier meats.

The food was as good today as it was the last time I visited, and the time before that, and so on and so forth. But as for the future of “HK BBQ Master”, the young entrepreneur plans to expand his operations with a second location. A journey that begins with putting this learned skill and experience of HK style bbq down on paper. A written version to be used as a tool to train a new generation of cooks. Not just preparation with a feeling, but to be able to control the quality of a larger quantity of bbq meat.

There was also the mention of menu expansion including the potential for noodles, jerky, and marinated items; much like you would get from any traditional Hong Kong barbecue meat vendor. Until then, myself and many more Vancouverites and tourists will be more than happy with the current selection.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This is definitely something you will crave again. Everything was delicious and it was comforting. You felt full, but without feeling gross from having eaten too much with too much grease. Worth the hype and all the buzz, and one to check off the foodie bucket list! Don’t deny your cravings.

HK BBQ MASTER
4651 No 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 2C4
(604) 272-6568

Nutcracker Ballet at Queen Elizabeth Theatre

This would be my first time witnessing a ballet performance. I have taken up the art as a child, but outside of that leotard that no longer fits, my experience with this artistic expression has been limited. However, I had the opportunity to bid on a prize pack for a good cause, and winning it, included two tickets to a ballet performance of my choice. Given that it was later in the year, I decided that my first professional exposure to the artistic dance should be the acclaimed “Nutcracker”, performed by “Calgary Ballet”.

And best of all you can drink at the theatre. Beer, wine, and high balls in glass when in the foyer. And up to two per person in plastic cups, when drinking in the theatre itself. And with three floors and multiple bars you need not wait too long to get hydrated. They also serve up nuts, cookies, and candies for guests to munch on. And ballet merch for those who want a keepsake. No Nutcrackers though, that was what I was looking for.

As for the performance, in hindsight, my guest and I made the mistake of not reading up on the story ahead of time. And I made the mistake of thinking the story and the ballet were one in the same. I didn’t realize the “Nutcracker” was an individual story and the ballet version was putting that story into interpretative dance. So I went in not knowing the plot, and thus being confused the duration of the 1.5 hour performance. The pace is fairly quick and if you aren’t aware of the story beforehand, you will get lost, and therefore won’t appreciate it as much. In fact I actually fell asleep. Without the dialogue there was nothing to follow. No plot, no story, no progression. Why were there dancing mice? How did they get on to the sled? Why are all these people dancing for who I assume are the main characters?

Nonetheless, I was able to appreciate the athleticism and the intricacies of their movements. I also liked the costumes. Women in ornate dresses, men in tights that didn’t leave anything to the imagination. It was all well done and everyone looked on point: beautiful, glittery, and shimmery.

We weren’t able to take photos of the actual performance, but I grabbed a feel shots to acknowledge the talent of the ballerinas, as they took their bows. This is a great experience for those who tend to be more visual by nature. Worth checking out if you have never seen a ballet performance, let alone the “Nutcracker”. But unfortunately the season is over and all the performances have been carried out. But for other, upcoming performances, visit the ballet website below.

https://balletbc.com/

Ventura Room

My guest and I were attending a show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, so decided to get in the mood with some food and drink at the neighbouring and new “Ventura Room”.

This was described as as a California-inspired bar, celebrating cocktails and live music. There was none of the latter this Sunday night at 5pm, when they first opened. But we would partake in the former, at least. To be honest I don’t know what “California-inspired” means, but the energy was laid-back, set to the tunes of hip hop and jazz.

There was plenty of space in the chic lounge. A wheel chair lift provided accessibility for the handicappable, a lengthy backlit bar spoke to the depth of their cocktail program, and there was plenty of seating to choose from: from high tops to booths. Set dark, you can just make out the golden geometric pattern that adhered to a mirrored backsplash, the tile trim that was set against a concrete wall, and a series of black and white photos that spoke to the history they wanted to put on display. The latter-most included suits and skirts toting cigarettes, attractive mug shots, and playboy bunnies in full costume. We would grab a seat under these, to set the tone.

The food menu was limited with the real focus being on wine and spirits. Small bites like pork jerky, nuts & olives, and wings. Along with a whole page dedicated to fusion sushi rolls. We would grab one of the latter, a trio of tacos, and a sushi-taco combo.

Our choice of their street tacos included baja fish, pulled pork, and a vegetarian cauliflower. We would get the “chipotle chicken” with lime crema, cilantro verde, feta, pickled red onion, and cilantro. They came in a trio, and our server was kind enough to offer us the option to pay for, and add on one more so we could have two each. We declined knowing we would order more tacos below. The “Chipotle chicken” was good, but nothing to write home about. It came to us cold, overflowing with filling for a messy meal. The squirt of lime helped to add zest when I was craving more seasoning and flavour.

I preferred the “ahi tuna tacos” a lot more. It had much more character and flavour thanks to the chili ginger seasoned tuna, yuzu aioli, avocado, daikon sprouts, and sushi rice. It was basically sushi deconstructed and re-housed into a batter and fried wonton-like shell. I liked the spicy kick and crispy crunch, but found each bite too creamy. So much so that you don’t get the taste of the tuna and the filling fell mushy.

We did try one of their sushi rolls. Given the bar setting and the rest of the menu, we played it safe with a fairly flavourful sounding fusion roll. The “crispy coconut shrimp roll” with panko shrimp, avocado, green onion, thai peanut sauce, and toasted sesame. I liked this the most out of all that we had. It was the definition of fusion sushi. Fresh with the scallions, hearty with the room temperature rice. I didn’t make out much of the shrimp or coconut, and found it very much so needed a dip in soy sauce for salt and flavour. Average at best.

As for drinks we had to get one of their share drinks, listed as “keys in the bowl” on the menu. There are only two options, both served in a gilded gold pineapple tumbler. We were immediately drawn to the “NSFW” (not suitable for work) for its name, but convinced to spend $3 more for the “Smokey the pear” given our server’s description of it. Hearing that it came with incense peaked our interest. But in reality, its scent doesn’t really add anything to the flavour of the drink, it simply gives it a certain mystique. As for the cocktail itself, it was smoky as the name promised, with a complex and juicy flavour thanks to absolut elyx, calvados, pear juice, lapsang, souchong tea, and lemon. But I wanted more smoke, and a stronger punch. Given that it was fairly easy to drink, I don’t know why it was recommended as a shared beverage. There was far too much ice, giving you the illusion of having more for less. And the pineapple is a fun novelty, but not one I haven’t experienced elsewhere.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I would come back out of ease, if looking for a destination before a show at Queen E. What we had today was not enough to have me declaring them a destination. I would describe what we had as “drunk food:” average in quality, but best when tipsy, and if you aren’t honing in on the nuances of it. Don’t deny your cravings.

VENTURA
695 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0K9
(604) 620-5547
venturaroom.com

2020 Acura RDX review

A Regular Girl’s Guide to Cars~

I am not a self proclaimed car enthusiast, for the longest time I have only considered them the means to get from point A to point B. However, with the influence of my partner, this has changed. He is the motor-head in the family: he eats, breathes, and dreams about cars in their most exotic of forms. And as a result, I have learned a thing or two living and traveling with him across these past 9 years. I have attended my fair share of races and rallies, enough to earn an interest in the vehicles that drive in them, but not necessary what is under the hood or behind the badge.

So with this in mind, for 2020 I have decided to write this, “A regular girl’s guide to cars.” I will be reviewing every day vehicles and some luxury wheels with the goal of accessing their everyday utility. I don’t care if it “comes standard”, if it interests me I will mention it here, much like how I review restaurants and experiences on this blog: details are what you are going to get. Welcome to “regular girl reviews”.

This week I would be commuting around in the Acura RDX, made even more memorable thanks to its red leather interior. A chic feel for those who are fashion forward and enjoy a pop of colour for something more unique. I did. And it certainly elevated my experience, and my feeling of grandeur each time I took a seat on it.

As the luxury label for Honda, I was expecting to catch many nuances in the 2020 Acura RDX; little perks and nods for the driver willing to pay more for more. And it did not disappoint. This began with keyless entry. No need to push a button or twist a key, keyless entry means a one of a kind greeting as the car unlocks the driver side door all on its own. This is especially handy if you are like me, you toss your keys into your bag, and can’t be bother to fish them out before getting in. And with push button ignition, you only need to have the keys within the car to start driving it. Guarantee, you will never lock your keys in, if it never leaves your purse or pocket. And if you do leave the fob behind, the car sounds, so you won’t be able to get very far without retrieving it. It then locks itself when when you walk away, tucking in the mirrors to avoid scratches.

Climbing in, the driver seat moves back for easier entry. It then moves into place with you on it, as per driver “1’s” memory settings. Great if you are the only one who drives the mid size SUV, not so great for anyone else. I was driver “2” and I basically found myself “setting up” the RDX every time I got in and out. (This included quick runs into the grocery store.) Yes, it is only a button, and yes it doesn’t take too long for the seat to adjust into place, but I like the idea of being able to get in and go. And this is coming from a girl who buys two of everything in her make up bag, so that she can have one in her kit at home, and another in her handbag for emergency touch ups. I want my life and commute as easy and pain-free and possible.

One of the first things I do when I test drive a new vehicle is fiddle around with all the buttons and dials. The reality is I want them all assessable to me when I am driving, and all of a sudden need to de-fog the windows, turn down the heat, or skip a song I dislike. But with shorter arms, this was harder to do in the RDX. Button mashing required more effort and stretch.

And instead of a traditional joystick-like gear selector, you have a series of ascending buttons. Buttons to push to switch from park, reverse, neutral, and drive. Easy enough to figure out, but a nuisance for those with a longer manicure. I found myself using my knuckle to push these buttons down. It also simplifies the action of moving the car a little too much for me. It feels like you are flipping a switch and turning on a toy, as oppose to a vehicle with 272 horse power and 280 foot pounds of torque.

Using the dial to change the modes was easier, but for city driving I didn’t use all it much. I did like the touch pad navigation under it, but also didn’t use it all that much. This is considering it was just easier to tap the touch screen with the ball of your finger. Although when I did, the clicking sensation on the touch pad had a nice sensory feel. It felt solid, hard to describe, you just have to try it for yourself. But I didn’t understand the position of its wrist rest, it didn’t make the touch pad any easier to use, nor was it even all that comfortable. Ans I couldn’t see myself resting my hand there for more than the second I was scrolling. Instead, I would have liked a more prominent arm rest. Something more than the short padded cushion covering the back-half of the centre console. A place to put my right hand elbow, and thus forearm in rest.

As for the way it drives, the RDX is incredibly nimble, the steering wheel just glides, the car swivels with the slightest motion you make. Overall, I found it very agile for its size. I definitely caught myself driving around town, transversing tighter and narrower streets, and parking in smaller stalls, that I normally avoid with larger vehicles. Although reverse stall parking was more challenging, given the blind spots. There aren’t any back up sensors, but the high definition camera does help here.

I liked how the 2020 RDX handled its speed bumps, doing so without the need to slow down to a halt. You don’t get much body motion from climbing over them, nor when you take a sharp corner or change lanes abruptly. Instead, you always feel steady and in control, be it hurling down a bumpy highway, or gliding over fresh pavement. And despite its size, it was nice to see that it didn’t roll back on steep hills either. That is one of those things that I get anxious over, having to balance on the pedal. But no fear here.

And as one who does tend to drive on the faster side, the brake light feature is a nice additive. Perfect for distracted driving or driving in gridlock, a warning splashes across your dash to let you know if you’re getting too close to the vehicle in front of you. It gives this notice with plenty of time, so that you need not go heavy footed to slow down. However, you do still need to be on the cautious side, as you can easily end up going faster than the speed limit. It is too easy to accelerate in the RDX. And because it is so stable, you don’t feel like you are going all that much faster, until you look down at the speedometer.

And if you are sitting in traffic for longer than you would like, at least the seats are comfortable. They cup your body in a hug. Although I do have broader shoulders, and did find it was a little limiting when trying to lean back. But with heated seats that kept the full length of your body warm quick, I didn’t mind.

In short, the 2020 Acura RDX is great ride, and a good compromise for those who like a SUV, but want the accessibility of a sedan. Thanks for the opportunity Acura Canada.

#AcuraRDX
https://www.acura.ca/

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